Zambry: No Official Discussions On Opening UiTM-IJN Cardiothoracic Surgery Postgrad To Non-Bumi

Higher Education Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir says there have been no official talks yet on opening UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgrad admissions to non-Bumiputera parallel pathway graduates, amid opposition from Malay nationalist groups.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) has yet to hold official discussions on opening admissions to Universiti Teknkologi MARA’s (UiTM) cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputera.

Berita Harian reported Higher Education Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir as saying that a few “fundamental issues” need to be addressed first, before the country’s first and only local cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme, by a collaboration between UiTM and the National Heart Institute (IJN), can be opened to non-Bumiputera students.

“We haven’t discussed this yet; we also weren’t informed officially about the proposal,” Zambry was quoted as saying at an event during the Kuala Kubu Bharu election campaign last night.

“It’s important for us to resolve a few fundamental issues first before we discuss the proposal.”

Zambry also reportedly reiterated that the Ministry of Health (MOH) would take the lead in resolving the parallel pathway issue.

The Barisan Nasional secretary general’s remarks were made amid a heated campaign for the Kuala Kubu Bharu by-election in Selangor, as opposition from Malay nationalist groups emerged in an issue involving the medical profession that has now entered Malay mainstream discussions.   

Prof Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar, a senior consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at UiTM, told CodeBlue in a recent interview that the Bumiputera-only public university was willing to “temporarily” open admissions to the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputera. 

This proposal, he claimed, received approval from UiTM’s leadership, though he also stressed that student applications need to be sent in first in order to get the university’s Senate approval.

Dr Raja Amin said graduates of the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway training – whose Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (FRCS Ed) in Cardiothoracic Surgery is not recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) – would be able to obtain their UiTM-IJN qualification within just six months to a year via credit transfer and curriculum mapping.

CodeBlue’s interview with Dr Raja Amin was circulated on social media, even entering Malay celebrity news when his daughter Alicia Amin, a model and actress, defended her father’s proposal to open the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputera.

“He believes in equal opportunities,” Alicia Amin told HibGlam. “Malaysia needs many doctors now”.

Senator Dr RA Lingeshwaran from the DAP, a multiracial party, told CodeBlue that UiTM was treading a “dangerous slope” by opening up cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate admissions to non-Bumiputera, as he maintained that the university should continue to maintain Bumiputera-exclusive admissions and that non-Bumiputera could take the parallel pathway training instead.

In a statement on Instagram yesterday, UMNOSiswa UiTM, which describes itself as a “neo nationalist” student group, questioned the “temporary” opening of UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate admissions to non-Bumiputera.

“What guarantees are there that the door will be closed after it’s opened temporarily? In fact, it will be opened as wide as possible, therefore sacrificing education opportunities for the Bumiputera that are the main agenda of the formation of UiTM,” said UMNOSiswa UiTM deputy chairman Ihsan Fiqri Mubin. 

“We strongly protest against the proposal. This programme should not first be opened to the non-Bumiputera; instead we should prioritise Bumiputera doctors from the parallel pathway system”.

Dr Raja Amin had said that the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme could be opened up to the non-Bumiputera for a limited period of time, until Universiti Malaya (UM) opens its own programme. 

The aim of both UiTM and UM is to form a Conjoined Board and to run the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme as a single one offered by both institutions and IJN.

Malay nationalist party Putra similarly condemned the proposal to open up the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputera.

Putra youth chief Nasrul Ali Hasan Abdul Latif said in a statement that at least 11 public universities offer undergraduate and postgraduate medical programmes – ignoring the fact that the new UiTM-IJN programme is the country’s only local cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme.

“Whatever the reason, UiTM must retain its original identity as a Bumiputera institution. We can’t sacrifice whatever little that is left for the Bumiputera”.

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